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Game Preview: Jaguars at Chargers, Chargers on Offense

Let's get through the one-week's-worth of facts and rankings, with a bit of analysis in between...shall we?

Chargers Offense

  • The Bolts rank 4th in offensive yardage per game (389.0), but were only 9th in yards per play (5.6).
  • This probably won't last long, but the Chargers are currently ranked 19th in points per game (14.0).
  • Although there were terribly-timed penalties in the Chiefs game, the Chargers were still disciplined enough to be tied for 7th for least offensive penalty yardage given up (30).
  • One stat the needs to get better, and it effects both sides of the ball, is the turnover margin. Currently the San Diego squad ranks 28th (-1).

It's really hard to gather much about the Chargers offense in that Chiefs game. They were great at times, but still struggled with untimely penalties (due to the insane crowd) and a couple of dropped passes. Once the rain started coming down in buckets the offense turned to crap (for both teams), and when the rain slowed the passing attack looked dangerous but desperate.

With the Chargers playing the Jaguars at home this weekend, I do not expect the untimely penalties to be an issue. I don't know if the offensive yardage per game will stay so high, but I am positive that the points per game will start going back up towards the top of the league with each passing week.

The most dangerous bullet-point above, the one that might actually be worth some worrying on the part of the Chargers fans, is the turnover margin. This is a team that has struggled to consistently get turnovers on defense for two straight seasons, and with so much inexperience on the field (Ryan Mathews, Legedu Naanee, you could even argue Jacob Hester is still learning the FB position) the possibility of turnovers on offense is real.

  • The Philip Rivers-led passing attacked is currently ranked 4th in passing yardage per game (280.0), 7th in yards per pass attempt (7.6) and 8th in passes thrown for 1st downs (35.9%).
  • The 2 sacks Rivers took from the Chiefs ties the Chargers for 12th in pass protection.
  • So much for abandoning the deep ball, the Chargers are tied for 3rd in passes for 20+ yards with 5.
  • The 22nd ranked completion percentage (56.4%) should go up as the Chargers get one of the league's most accurate passers out of the rain.
I don't understand freaking out about Vincent Jackson. I really don't. Everyone keeps saying "The Chargers looked like they were one weapon away from winning that game." I think the Chargers were two weapons away from dominating that game, and I think those weapons are Kassim Osgood and a healthy Shawne Merriman. But Vincent Jackson is the big name that everyone wants to complain about and dream about playing in San Diego.

I watched that Chargers/Chiefs game twice. The first time as the fan, the second time as an analyst. The first time I walked away from the game thinking that the offense didn't look very good at all, even before the rain came down. The second time I walked away realizing that I was so wrapped up in what happened once it started raining that I had forgotten what happened before that. 

Before the rain started coming down, the offense worked almost flawlessly. There were big passes to Antonio Gates, short passes to Legedu Naanee and running lanes for Ryan Mathews. All the offense needed was for Nick Hardwick to handle the crowd noise a little better than he did, and for Malcom Floyd to have a better game than he did, to be exactly what they spent the offseason building it to be. So, Week 1 of the new offense? It faced maybe it's most hostile environment it's going to, and it did only okay. That seems like a decent start to me.
  • In one game the Chargers have already seen a difference in the run game, jumping from dead last in 2009 to 15th in 2010 in yards per game (109.0) and 18th in yards per carry (3.8).
  • In a category they were just awful in last season, the Chargers kick off Week 2 tied for 8th in 20+ yard rushes (1).
  • It's not all rosey though. The Chargers are 26th in runs that went for 1st downs (13.8%), which had a lot to do with getting themselves into 3rd & 5 or more situations. The team is also tied for 1st for the most fumbles with 2 of them.
Each week it seems like I'm trying to convey to other fans, that haven't seen Ryan Mathews, exactly how good the Chargers rookie RB is. I think this week, in trying to convince Jaguars fans at Big Cat Country that Mathews is not similar to Known Moreno, I learned the best "comparison" for Mathews yet: Michael Turner (but more nimble and with better hands). I can't wait for the day when I don't have to tell people about what Mathews looks like he's going to be, but when they already know him and what he is. It's going to save me a lot of time.

Jaguars Defense
  • After matching up against a Denver offense that looks like it's going to have it's troubles this season, the Jaguars are currently ranked 24th in yards given up per game (363.0) and 29th in yards given up per play (6.0).
  • The 17 points they gave up ties them for 17th best in the league.
  • Strangely enough, in a bit of a stalemate, both the Broncos and the Jaguars allowed for conversions on 30% of 3rd downs (tying them for 11th).
  • The Jacksonville defense collected the 10th most penalty yards during Week 1, getting 7 flags and giving the Broncos 70 free yards.
Overall, the Jaguars defense looks okay but certainly not great. Instead of trying to paint some vague and interesting picture here, I think it's pretty obvious when we go further that this is a case of a good run defense and a bad pass defense. Let's proceed.
  • The Jaguars secondary, where many worried they might have issues, seemed to be a problem as they gave up 274 yards through the air (27th) to the Broncos and an astonishing 8.9 yards per pass attempt (29th).
  • The Jacksonville pass-rush, based off of stats, seems effective and inconsistent. They collected 3 sacks (5th) and picked a pass off (7th), but also gave Kyle Orton enough time to complete 6 passes for 20+ yards against them (dead last).
  • After Orton completed 63.6% of his passes against the Jags (21st), Philip Rivers should have a decent chance of raising his completion percentage from where it was in Kansas City.
Did a smile creep up on anyone else's face while they read through those? Although the Jacksonville CBs are tall compared to the league average, they haven't shown the ability to shut-down receivers and can be thrown on.

The biggest problem for the Jags in this game, however, is their inability to cover Tight Ends. Add in the fact that their starting SS Anthony Smith is doubtful for Sunday's game, and that Sean Considine couldn't cover the worst TEs in the league (I saw him try in Philadelphia), and this has all the makings of a monster game for Antonio Gates.
  • The Jags run defense looked stout in some areas against the Broncos. 
  • They gave up on 89 yards on the ground (tied for 11th best) at 3.6 yards per carry (12th best). They also forced a fumble (tied for 5th) and gave up no runs longer than 17 yards.
  • Along, with not giving up any big yardage on the ground, they didn't give up many big plays either. The Broncos were only able to get 6 first downs by was of the ground game (11th), meaning only 24% of the runs against the Jacksonville front 7 went for 1st downs (17th).
Damn. I was really hoping for some weak run defense so that Ryan Mathews could have a huge game and get his swagger back after losing a little bit of it over the course of that Chiefs game. What I really want, for Ryan's first game, is a touchdown for the kid and I still think that's possible.

A big game for him is not out of the question, assuming that the Chargers' running game is better than what the Broncos are currently throwing out there, and it would be great to see. However, it would appear that the best place to attack these big cats is through the air and with our Hall of Fame Tight End.